What to Eat Before a Workout: 8 Easy Meals to Maximize Your Performance

What do you eat before a workout?

I’ve written about HOW to eat before a workout before. But I’ve come to realize that when people ask this question, they’re not looking for guidelines, but rather the specific foods that they can make — without having to think about it — to prime their bodies for a workout.

So the goal here isn’t to get that little half-percent edge on competition by being meticulous in your pre-workout nutrition. (For that, check out Ben Greenfield’s workout nutrition post and this one on 12-Minute Athlete about pre-workout meals.)

Instead it’s to eat something natural and quick, without a lot of planning, that’ll getting you 90 percent of the way towards perfect.

So that’s the motivation for this list: 8 simple, natural meals or snacks — vegan, of course — to eat before a workout. The criteria I aim for in choosing a pre-workout meal:

  • Lots of carbohydrate, a little bit of protein (a 3:1 ratio is best, but you don’t need to be exact with it)
  • Whole foods, with just a few exceptions where it will benefit performance
  • No caffeine — no doubt it helps performance, but for everyday nutrition I leave it out

I’ve divided them into categories based on when you should eat each. If you’ve got the time and aren’t worried about getting too many calories (say, for a weight loss goal) eat one from each category before a big race or workout; otherwise eat only the just-before-the-workout meal.

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Can You Still Eat Ultra-Healthy on a Budget?

We all want to eat healthy foods — plant-based, organic, non-GMO, and whole, whenever possible.

Whenever possible.

For me and many others, that translates as “when we can afford to do so.” After all, a healthy diet can cost three times more than an unhealthy one, and my family (and I bet yours) has got the grocery bills to prove it.

But are we supposed to just settle? That’s a hard choice to make, especially when it’s not just your health, but your kids’ health that’s at stake.

Today, I hope to make that choice just a little bit easier for you. Not by answering the “Is it worth it to buy healthy foods?” question — that’s up to you — but instead providing some objective guidance as to which healthy foods are the most worth your hard-earned money.

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5 Food Trends that Fascinate Me

Fresh salad bowl

This post is the fifth in a series of six that I’m doing in a sponsor partnership with the Cherry Marketing Institute. As always, words and opinions are mine.

“Put butter in your coffee; it’ll give you more energy and it’s better for you.”

“Eat low-carb, mostly fat … it’ll help you run longer.”

And my favorite: “Stop eating food, just drink Soylent!”

When I think of food trends, this is what I think of. Internet sensations that flare up and often fizzle out just as quickly.

(Actually, I’m not being fair to the three I listed to start this post. There’s some actual science behind the first two, and even if I don’t personally do them, it’s clear they’re working for some people. Number 3, though, is just dumb.)

We all like to laugh at food trends, to pretend we’re experts as we look back at the silly things we used to do (or that people in other camps do now). But some of what we now call trends will endure, and eventually we won’t think of them as trends at all. That’s how change happens.

So which ones are legit? That’s the big question, and your guess is as good as mine.

All of that said, here are five trends I’m betting my health on.

An admission: call me spineless, but I have trouble diving headlong into almost any new diet, preferring to experiment and then tweak to my liking. You’ll see that most of the trends I list here come with an explanation of where I’m not fully buying in, and what I’m doing to moderate.

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26 Weird Ingredients Vegans Use: An A-to-Z Guide

Note: this is a guest post from Esther at A, B, C, Vegan.

It’s time we admit it. We’re weird.

I mean that in the best way possible. And I know at least a few people agree: three years after Matt wrote it, The 17 Weirdest Things I Do Now that I’m Vegan is still the most popular post ever on No Meat Athlete. 

But you know what the weirdest part is, right? The ingredients we use! 

You know, the stuff you buy at the strange-smelling health food store. The foods your friends are scared to try. The ones that melt like cheese, gel like gelatin, and chew like pulled pork.

And of course, the ones that most people still associate with As-Seen-On-TV plant-pets from the 80’s.

It’s not just weird ingredients, though. Even when we use totally normal ingredients, we often do it in very unexpected ways.

But as weird as our ingredients may be, we use them for a reason: because they’re wonderful. 

These ingredients (and the strange ways we find to use everyday ingredients) help us fuel our plant-based lifestyles in a healthy way, while allowing us to experience some of the tastes and textures that we still crave. 

So here goes, kiddos: one weird vegan ingredient (or weird use of a normal ingredient) for every letter of the alphabet.

A is for Aminos:

Specifically, coconut aminos. Liquid aminos are an interesting easy way to add those building blocks that come from protein to your diet. More importantly, they’re a gluten-free alternative for the soy sauce flavor (if using Bragg’s, the brand you will commonly find), and the coconut aminos provide a soy-free and lower-sodium option as well!

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Why I’ve Finally Stopped Eating Oil

Aceite de oliva Olio d'oliva ελαιόλαδο Olive oil

There was a time when going vegetarian seemed extreme. Impossible.

Where will I get protein?

Forget protein, where will I even get the calories?

Then I did it, and it turned out not to be so hard.

Vegan, though … that was different. Too extreme. I could never do it.

How will I eat out at a restaurant? What will I tell my friends? Where are the calories going to come from now?

And as you know, that turned out just fine too.

But for the past few years, there’s been another “should I or shouldn’t I” conversation in my head — and this time, it’s been about oil. Olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil.

I know it’s not a whole food … but it’s not that processed.

All the vegan doctors say it’s bad, but they mean for overweight people. Not for me, I’m an ultrarunner!

And, one more time: Where will I get the calories?

Keepin’ it Real

I don’t expect this to be a popular blog post. It’s easier to make a made-up “chocolate helps you lose weight” story go viral than a “how I removed the last possible tasty thing from my food” angle. (That’s actually not the case, but I used to think it was.)

In fact, last time I wrote about giving up oil for a few weeks, I got emails from several people calling me irresponsible for suggesting that “heart healthy” oils might actually not be so good for us!

But I’m okay with that. People tell me one of the reasons they read my blog is because I’m transparent — so no sense trying to hide what for me is a sensible next step towards maximum health and energy through food.

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Want to Change Your Habits? Change This One First

This post is the fourth in a series of six I’m doing in partnership with the Cherry Marketing Institute. As always, opinions and wacky ideas are my own.

If there was one habit you could do that would keep you on track with all the rest of your habits, what would it be?

I wrote about this idea a few years ago, when for me this habit was reading — filling my brain with positive, inspiring ideas each morning kept me excited about improving lots of areas in my life.

But people change. We go through seasons in our lives. And when it comes to my most important habit, I’ve changed my tune.

My friend and accountability partner, Jeff Sanders, was recently asked about his “anchor” habit on Mindful Creator podcast. His answer: energy. From the moment he wakes up, drinking a liter of water first thing in the morning, Jeff focuses on maximizing his energy levels, so that he stays motivated and capable of being the person he needs to be for his business and life.

As I heard this, I realized that — perhaps due to my association with Jeff — energy has become my anchor habit, too.

The Energy Focus

We often read about how willpower is overrated, how it’s depletable like a muscle and is only one part of the habit-change equation.

But let’s not ignore it entirely: willpower is a part of habit change, and it’s a big one. And sleep, stress, and nutrition — all of which clearly influence our energy levels — profoundly affect our ability to stick it out when we want nothing more than to quit.

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What Supplements Do Vegan Athletes Need?

Everyone, it seems, wants to know about supplements. After almost every talk I’ve given, someone in the Q&A has asked, “What supplements do you take?”

After my talk at the Marshall Healthfest last month, someone asked it.

Earlier that morning, in the athlete panel I did with Omowale Adewale, Rich Roll, Christy Morgan, and Ellen Jaffe Jones (in the photo below), someone had asked it.

And when we did a Q&A with Rich earlier this week inside the NMA Academy (reopening soon, stay tuned!), someone asked it there, too.

[athlete panel]

The vegan athlete panel at Marshall Healthfest 2015.

The Answer?

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Discover the Secrets of the Tarahumara: Stream the New Film GOSHEN in Its Entirety, This Week Only

It was six years ago that Chris McDougall sparked a revolution in running with Born to Run, the book that made seemingly everyone want to run an ultramarathon, do it barefoot, and eat pinole and chia seeds all the while. (Or was that just me?)

These behaviors, of course, are those of the Tarahumara, an indigenous Mexican tribe of incredible endurance runners whose way of life has been largely preserved by the geography of the Copper Canyon region.

That way of life, including the extreme lack of modern diseases that plague most developed cultures, is the subject of the new film GOSHEN: Places of Refuge for the Running People. And for the rest of the week, I’m thrilled to be able to offer it for streaming in its entirety here at No Meat Athlete. (April 11th is when the free streaming ends, so watch it before then!)

[Update: Since the free-streaming period has ended, I’ve replaced the embedded video with the trailer for GOSHEN.]

 

One message that Born to Run didn’t quite hammer home is that the Tarahumara eat a diet that is largely plant-based, with only small amounts of meat punctuating traditional meals of las tres hermanas, beans, corn, and squash.

And as we all know, it’s not just the Tarahumara who exemplify that when it comes to fitness, this diet works: as Chris McDougall says in GOSHEN, “When you start to look at super-performing endurance athletes throughout history, more often than not they’re vegetarians.”

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